That’s £50,237,631.33 of Croydon Council‘s money that has gone missing. £50,237,631.33 of your money lost forever.
That’s the astonishing figure released in a council answer given to a member of the public’s question about the amount of Council Tax that Croydon Council has failed to collect. It comprises £37.9 million uncollected in 2010-2011, and £12.3 million which has been written off from the first five years of this century.
According to (a slightly different set of) figures collated by the GMB union, which adds uncollected non-domestic rates to the uncollected Council Tax, in 2010-2011 Croydon was the fifth worse London borough for collecting local taxes last year, with a total uncollected of £10.2 million.
That’s worse than outer London neighbours Sutton (£2.6 million uncollected in the LibDem-controlled borough), that’s worse than Tory-run Wandsworth (less than £5 million uncollected in 2010-2011), and worse even than many Labour-run, inner London boroughs, including Lambeth (£7.4 million).
It’s yet another blow to the long-lost image of Croydon’s Conservative council offering “value for money”. It is this image which helps to get voters in the Conservative south of the borough out to the polls at election time.
The giant shortfall adds to the woes of a council stuck in a speculative gamble on the rates in the spiralling property market, an extravagant and unnecessary new Town Hall, and tens of millions more wasted on recruiting temps, consultants and interims.
The many millions of uncollected Council Tax “could have been diverted to protecting frontline services,” said one leading political figure. Who? Some left-wing political firebrand, perhaps? A trades union spokesman? No, the person making what Tony Hancock used to call “a statement of the bleedin’ obvious” about councils’ failures on local taxes was none other than Grant Shapps, the Conservative MP and local government minister in the ConDem coalition government.
Shapps was speaking last summer when he described this failure to collect taxes as “breathtaking incompetence”. Then, it was being reported that £35 million was uncollected in Croydon.
But according to the updated figures provided on Monday by Croydon Council’s deputy leader, Dudley Mead (MBE!), the situation is actually worse than that, with collection for Council Tax in Croydon in the 12-month period up to April last year £37,950,640.53 short.
Then add on the £12,286,990.80 that has just been “written off”, never to be collected. It all adds up to £50,237,631.33.
We all end up paying for this long-running incompetence. If all that lost money had been collected, Council Tax in Croydon next year could be cut by one-third, or £383 for each Band D household. It would be money that could be spent by residents to boost Croydon’s private sector local economy.
The money might have been used to shore up some of the council’s creaking public services that have suffered cruel cuts under this current administration.
With that lost fortune, Croydon could have more than a thousand extra police officers for a year.
Croydon Council’s spin on this dreadful record is to say that they are better than they used to be at the task of collecting Council Tax.
“We have seen an improvement of 1.2 per cent in our in year collection rate from 2005-2006 to 2010-2011,” Mead said, not managing to avoid sounding somewhat self-satisfied. “We are very proud of the performance level we are now achieving.” Proud?
Mead later boasted to the meeting of how Croydon had even won awards for its “efficiency”, failing to mention that the borough’s deputy CEO was one of the judges in this self-awarding process. Or that after five years of Conservative control, Croydon’s Council Tax collection rate remains worse than many other London boroughs, including Lambeth.
- Click here for how we covered the story last year, and the breakdown of uncollected Council Tax figures, based on government statistics.
- Inside Croydon: brought to you from the heart of the borough, free of charge, an independent voice standing for freedom of speech for the people of Croydon
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